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Round the Sphere Again: God's Nature

Sovereign and Personal
“…God’s sovereignty and …God’s personhood, if they function in our lives properly, will serve both as powerful incentives to prayer and as direction for the way in which we approach God” (D. A. Carson).

Commision or Permission?
Collected thought on the God of openness theology. Would he really be off the hook, so to speak, when it comes to evil? (Triablogue).


The Cross of Christ: Loving Our Enemies

This week’s reading from John Stott’s The Cross of Christ for Reading Classics Together at Challies.com is Chapter 12, Loving Our Enemies. This is a chapter I wouldn’t have anticipated in a book about the cross of Christ. I understand that it’s there in order to work out what it is to show in our relationships the same “combination of love and justice” as there is in the work of Christ on the cross, but it still felt out of place.

Christians, says Stott, are called to be peacemakers, and yet the kind of peace we make must be modeled on the peace of God. It may cost us to make peace; we may need to confess our fault in the dispute. At the same time, we cannot forgive when there is no repentance for real wrongs done.  

The Christian Home
 Christian parents will model their love for their children on God’s love, meaning they will seek the best for them, even at great cost. They will also model their discipline after God’s own discipline of his children.

The Church
Love and discipline should characterize the church family, too.

[T]he New Testament gives clear instruction about discipline, on the one hand its necessity for the sake of the church’s holiness, and on the other hand its constructive purpose, namely, if possible, to “win over” and “restore” the offending member. …[A]ll disciplinary action was to exhibit the love and justice of the cross.

The State
Stott bases what he says about the administration of justice by the state on Romans 12 and 13. The Christian attitude toward evil should be:

  • Evil is to be hated.
  • Evil is not to be repaid.
  • Evil is to be overcome. By this, Stott refers to these words of Paul: “Bless those who persecute you” and “if your enemy is hungry, feed him.”
  • Evil is to be punished. The first three on this list are the responses the individual Christian should make toward evil. This last one is to be carried out only by the state. The law enforcement officer, working for the state, is “God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” 

 The origin of the states authority to punish evil is God, and the purpose of this authority it to reward good and punish evil. Stott goes on to say that this authority must be used in a way that is controlled and discriminate. Citizens must submit to the authority of the state.

To sum up this section:

Because its authority has been delegated to it by God, we must respect but not worship it. Because the purpose of its authority is to punish evil and promote goodness, it has no excuse for arbitrary government. To fulfill this purpose it may use coercion, but only minimum necessary force, not indiscriminate violence. We are to respect the state and its officials, giving them a discerning submission, not an uncritical subservience.

Next up is chapter 13, Suffering and Glory.


Thankful Thursday

I’m thankful that my youngest daughter is coming with me on my upcoming trip because I hate travelling alone. And I’m thankful that flying is so much less expensive for us now than it used to be. I’m also thankful that there are no more trips planned after this trip, because I’m a true homebody.

I’m thankful for my home and the time I get to spend in it. I’m thankful for the son who is putting plastic on the older windows to keep out the winter drafts.

I’m thankful for my hands. Useful things, they are. When I was last at the dental hygenist, he asked me to demonstrate to him how I flossed my teeth. I did and he remarked that I had excellent dexterity. Not everyone does and some people have trouble keeping their teeth clean because of it. It’s a blessing to have hands that work well and I thank God for them.

I’m thankful that everything that happens to me is sifted through the hands of God who has been reconciled to me in Christ. 

Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others. 


Status Report: November

Sitting…at the kitchen table, looking out the window. A few minutes ago I saw a fox run by on the street that runs past my house. 

Drinking…the same thing I drink first thing every morning—black coffee.

Marking…this as the first day of real winter this year. Although we have very little snow—and none in my front yard—the temperature is -9C (15F) this morning. I think that counts as winter.

Wishing…I’d been able to do the November Thanksgiving thing this year. But I’m going to be gone for 10 days this month, so I decided a few weeks ago that I’d be unable to commit to posting every day and collecting everyone’s posts. Now I’m wishing I’d tried to find someone else to do it, because I miss it. And so, apparently, do some of you. Connie is doing it on her own. [Update: You can join in daily thanksgiving with Sherry Early on Twitter using the hashtag #novemberthanksgiving.]

Enjoying…my new granddaughter. Lately she’s been sleeping when I’ve held her, but she’s a very cute and cuddly sleeper. She makes the sweetest grunts while sleeping, too.

Thinking…that I will miss her while I’m away. 

Also thinking…that this fall has been one big a roller-coaster ride for me. And I don’t like roller-coasters. 

Wondering…what good God is working through my roller-coaster ride.

Hoping…that things are more even-keeled for a while. I could use a few months of nothing much.

Thanking…God for the windows in my home. Even on a cold and dreary November day, it’s a beautiful world out there.

ReadingCounted Righteous in Christ by John Piper. It’s a defense of imputed righteousness against the teaching that it’s our faith that is imputed to us for righteousness. I’m finding his exegesis of some passages of scripture hard to follow, a problem I didn’t have when I read The Future of Justification. I’m going to have to go back and read again, I think, and maybe compare what he writes in the two books.

Also reading…Grieving, Hope, and Solace by Albert N. Martin. It’s a great little book, especially notable for it’s scriptural explanation of the intermediate state. 

Feeling…annoyed that the big dog needs me to take him across the road. Also feeling annoyed that he jumps the back fence to I can’t just let him out in the yard when it’s cold. 



Theological Term of the Week

Heidelberg Catechism
A Reformed confessional document, written by Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583) in Heidelberg, consisting of a series of questions and answers used to teach Christian doctrine and practice.   

  • From the Heidelberg Catechism

    1. Q. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

    A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. 

  • From Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism by Robert Godfrey:
  • From the beginning the catechism was intended for preaching as well as teaching. The Reformers of Heidelberg were convinced that not only children needed catechizing, but all God’s people needed careful, regular instruction in the basics of the faith. The catechism was divided into 52 Lord’s Days with the purpose of facilitating weekly preaching from the catechism. Especially in the Dutch Reformed tradition that intention has been preserved to our day. The sermon in one service each Sunday (usually the afternoon or evening service) is based on the catechism for that Sunday.

    The personal and Christ-centered character of the catechism is clear right from the beginning. The first question asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer is as fine a summary of the gospel as can be found anywhere: “That I am not my own, but belong-body and soul, in life and in death-to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

    This first answer is long and stands in marked contrast with the rather short questions that begin other catechisms. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” and answers, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The Anglican Catechism is even briefer (and easier). Its first question is “What is your name?” But Heidelberg takes the catechumen to the heart of the gospel right at the beginning. Christ stands at the head of the catechism and the whole catechism is an explication of what it means to belong to him.

Learn more:

  1. Justin Holcomb: The Heidelberg Catechism
  2. Carl Trueman: The Heidelberg Catechism (mp3)
  3. Robert Godfrey: Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism
  4. Zacharias Ursinus: Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism
  5. Doug VanderMeulen: Series of sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism (mp3s)
  6. URC Learning: Heidelberg Catechism Curriculum for Families (mp3s and pdfs)
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.